New Delhi: The government will today consider introducing a new bill that will increase considerably the transparency of all sports bodies. The bill's headline, however, lies in its attempt to increase the financial accountability of India's cricket board, one of the richest sports organizations in the world. To do that, the Right to Information (RTI) Act would apply to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
The cabinet will today review the National Sports Bill 2011, which the government wants to introduce in this current session of parliament, which concludes on September 8.
In addition to its firm stand on the BCCI, the bill wants administrators of all sports bodies to be 70 or younger; nobody is allowed more than two consecutive terms; and an administrator cannot hold more than two positions simultaneously.
The proposed Bill has met with stiff resistance in the past by sports federations who are often headed by politicians cutting across party lines. For e.g: Sharad Pawar, Union Minister for Agriculture and food processing, is also the ICC president, while Vilasrao Deshmukh, the Science & Technology Minister, is the president of Maharashtra Cricket Association.
The Bill also provides for the Indian cricket team to be put through dope tests by the National Anti-Doping Agency, just like any other athlete or sportsperson. So far, the Indian cricketers have not signed the World Anti-Doping Association (WADA) code and hence do take dope tests at the national level as well.
"We need reforms in sports, which we hope the National Sports Bill will bring. Our idea was to introduce the Bill in the monsoon session. The inter-ministerial consultation is over and it will be presented to the Cabinet tomorrow (Tuesday). If passed, it will then go to Parliament for resolution," said Sports Minister Ajay Maken. "I am hopeful that the Parliament will be unanimous on this Bill," he added.
India has close to 40 sports federations like the Athletic Federation of India and All India Football Federation, as well as the Indian Olympic Association and the BCCI. While the BCCI is an autonomous body, the IOA is the body responsible for selecting athletes to represent India at the Olympic Games, Asian Games and other international athletic meets and for managing the Indian teams at the events.
The BCCI has objected in the past to regulation on the grounds that it is not funded by the government. However, various aspects of the T20 domestic IPL tournament, organised by the BCCI, are being investigated for violations of foreign exchange laws and for tax evasion. A parliamentary committee also said in its report earlier this month that the Income Tax Department was being very lenient to the BCCI and has allowed the cricketing body to "enrich its coffers at the expense of the exchequer".
The need for better scrutiny of sports bodies was underscored by the graft-drenched Commonwealth Games, organized by a committee headed by Congress MP Suresh Kalmadi. He is now in jail, along with some key aides. Mr Kalmadi and others have been accused of signing up companies who provided the most expensive quotes for their services, rather than the cheapest ones. Massive kickbacks were allegedly involved.
Some Pointers from The New Sports Bill:
According to the provisions of this proposed tough Bill, sports federations will have to comply with the fresh directives within a year, which will make elections compulsory every four years.
The Bill also proposes that no person beyond the age of 70 can hold more than two terms in office. At the same time, they cannot hold more than two positions. This rule is intended to end the monopoly held by several politicians over the years as heads of various sports bodies.
All sports federations including the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) will come under the purview of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
The new Bill will now make it mandatory for cricketers too to undergo age and dope tests.
The final authority on overseeing all national sports federations, Indian Olympic Association (IOA), playing fields and anti-doping agency NADA will be the Central government.
The Bill also envisages a sports ombudsman to arbitrate between warring factions or over disputes.
It also incorporates a sports tribunal to be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court to decide on penalties and pass judgements.